Sheade: Defense takes over in Kansas basketball victory

On the first Baylor possession, sophomore center Isaiah Austin took a 3-point attempt. Nothing too special or unusual, but Austin was guarded by freshmen defensive standout Joel Embiid.  Austin missed the shot, but the attempt was wide open.

“Coach Drew told us after last game that we passed up too many shots and he knows that we have confidence in making them,” Austin said. “That’s what we did tonight, but we fell short.”

Embiid is used to playing against centers inside the paint and not having to contest 3-point shots. Embiid’s shot blocking ability had to take a back seat when defending Austin on the perimeter during the 78-68 Kansas victory over Baylor last night.

Austin ended the first half 2-3 from 3-point range due to Embiid’s lack of success guarding him. Baylor shot 80 percent from beyond the arc.

“We had some really good first-shot defensive possessions in the second half,” coach Bill Self said. “In the first half, we weren’t turned up enough to get to their players.”

In the first half, Austin didn’t have any success inside against Embiid. Austin was 0-5 in the paint, including a huge block by Embiid.

Austin was bothered by Embiid’s knack for guarding the rim, and forced Austin to settle for outside shots, which was the reason for Embiid’s single blocked shot Monday night.

Embiid hasn’t faced a center quite like Austin since playing Iowa State’s Georges Niang.

Niang was 0-9 from three on Jan. 14 against the Jayhawks, but still forced Embiid out of his comfort zone.

Why was Austin’s 3-point shooting ability so tough for Embiid?

Austin’s mixture of athleticism and length makes his shot hard to defend. Austin is a true seven-foot center, which makes the ability to block his jump shot more difficult.

Niang has trouble shooting against Embiid because Niang is only 6-foot-7. Embiid wins the size advantage there.

Embiid’s inexperience guarding players who succeed from the three-point range showed mostly in the second half. Throughout the game, Embiid would lose track of Austin and Austin would have a wide-open three-point look.

Embiid didn’t have a bad game defensively; He was a force on the inside, guarded the paint well and picked up four rebounds. When Baylor took Embiid outside of his comfort zone, he had trouble guarding the perimeter.

The Embiid-Austin matchup took size to a completely different level.

The offensive comparison between Embiid and Austin is night and day. Embiid is often scoring his points inside the paint and using his length to score around the rim, while Austin uses his length to shoot jump shots over defenders.

Austin finished the game 6-15 from the field and four of his six makes were 3-point buckets. Austin was 4-8 in the second half and two of those field goals were 3-point shots. Austin made both of his inside baskets while Embiid was sitting on the bench.

Embiid’s offensive performance can be told by two plays.

First, Embiid swished a turn-around jump shot from four-feet away, where Austin guarded him.  That shot was difficult, but Embiid made it look easy.

Second, an alley-oop two-handed slam assisted by freshman guard Frank Mason. Embiid used his athleticism to move up the court faster than most big men which got him in position to make the alley-oop play.

Both were key plays. The turn-around jumper gave Kansas a 29-28 lead and the alley-oop slam energized the crowd late in the first half.

Embiid will have his hands full again with 3-point shooting centers in Georges Niang when Kansas hosts Iowa State on Jan. 29.

  • Updated Jan. 21, 2014 at 1:04 am